When it comes to putters, balance is key. And by that we mean the balance point of your flat stick.
There are two major styles of putter out in the marketplace: face-balanced and toe-balanced putters. Each has different balance and center of gravity properties, and each appeals to players with specific types of putting strokes.
So, what does it mean for a putter to be face-balanced or toe-balanced, and how do you determine that on a putter?
Here's how to figure out the balance of your putter. Take your putter and put your index finger under the shaft as it lays parallel to the ground. When you've achieved the balance point, take a look at the putter head. If the putter face is flat and pointing skyward, then your putter is face-balanced. If, at the balance point, the toe of the putter head is pointing down toward the ground, then the putter is toe-balanced, sporting varying degrees of toe-hang.
What's the difference, then, between a face-balanced and a toe-balanced putter?
A face-balanced putter is constructed in a way that makes it difficult to open and close the face through the putting stroke. That means a face-balanced putter is best for the type of player who has a straight back-and-through stroke. The putter will work with your stroke and make it easier to get back to square on your target line.
A toe-balanced putter can open and close more easily, making it easier for a player with an arc-style or swinging-gate style stroke to complete the movement. Within the toe-balanced category, the amount of the toe that points toward the ground at its balance point determines the amount of toe-hang on the putter. The more toe-hang a putter has, the more it will open in the backstroke (which is called toe flow) and close in the throughstroke. If you take a big arc in your swing, then you want more toe-hang.
These concepts can help you hone in on the general types of putters that you could prefer. Of course, there are exceptions in both categories, as well putters that fit in different parts of the spectrum (including the Toe Up putter from Odyssey Golf that is the rare blade that balances with the toe up in the air). There are also a lot of other factors to consider when choosing a putter, including finding one that has the proper length (33-, 34- and 35-inch options are common), the lie angle, blade loft, as well head and overall weight.